The blues can never be green: why the pausing of UK fracking is an election ploy

After the calling of a general election for December 12th, British politics has taken yet another unpredictable and exciting turn. Already the major political parties have begun to outline their election strategies; from the repetition of Labour’s 2017 strategy that boasts all the optimism of a Manchester United fan’s opinion on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, to the Europhilic platform of the Liberal democrats that so nearly distracts from their voting record. 

With headlines dominated for so long by the haze of Brexit that it may now be the national sport of the United Kingdom, one might be forgiven for forgetting the very identities and positions of the mainstream parties outside of the European question. Thus, when the Conservative party announced the “suspension” of fracking operations in the United Kingdom, anyone who has taken an interest in the growing environmentalist movement worldwide would be forgiven for assuming this as the actions of a party that cares about the planet.

Fracking – one of the more contentious methods of extracting shale and natural gas – has received a large degree of public scrutiny in recent years. The potential for geological disruption, resulting in the increased chance of earthquakes and threat posed to local communities, is one of many ecological risks associated with the process, implemented at various sites nationwide. Andrea Leadsom, Business Secretary in the Johnson Government, argued that it was the right move for the Conservative government, who were “following the science… until the science changes”.

Leadsom — who infamously questioned on her first day as Theresa May’s Energy Secretary if climate change was real — seems here to justify the suspension of an environmentally damaging practice; until the point that the facts and circumstances change to allow the government to continue it again sans critique. Here we see the government enacting a temporary suspension of a profitable but ecologically destructive practice, until the science or circumstances change that justify them continuing with the destructive business.

Despite the Orwellian doublespeak of Leadsom, the move is nothing short of part of the election campaign launch of Johnson and the Conservative party. Forgetting for the moment the irony of a campaign centred around the idea of Britain deserving better than the brutal imposition of austerity and political buffoonery masterminded by the Conservatives themselves, Johnson’s political ethos focuses on the notion of “getting things done”. Let us get Brexit done, as the Conservatives cry, and we can focus on getting things done for the police force we have cut, the health service we have dogmatically hollowed, and on resolving the environmental crisis. Suspension of fracking, regardless of its motivations, is in the eyes of the Conservatives at least something they have actually got done in the past years of political weakness and ambiguity.

Indeed, one might be forgiven for forgetting what the political parties of the United Kingdom still stand for in these uncertain to-say-the-least times. The Conservatives can certainly be pointed to as the party of action when it comes to environmental considerations; they cannot be pointed to as the party of environmentalism. This is the party that abolished the department of Energy and Climate Change in 2016; the party that removed subsidisation of renewable energy construction and restricted the ability of renewable energy sources to develop in the United Kingdom; the party that ended the programme of sustainable home development due to a lack of profitability for investors. This is to say nothing of the continued support and subsidisation of Nuclear and non-renewable energy sources; many of which are not only unsustainable, but themselves not profitable. The fact that the Johnson Government has acted to temporarily halt fracking operations in the United Kingdom is simply a drop in the polluted ocean that Conservative policies and ideological profit-focus has helped to create.

This is hardly surprising. It is long documented that free market policies such as those championed by the Conservatives are wholly incompatible with ecological considerations; considerations which require the sacrifice of short term and individual self-interest in order to protect the common long-term good. Such profit-focus is integral to the continued dogmatic adherence to Neoliberalism that runs in the very blood of the Conservative party; an ideology that champions the free pursuit of self-interest for all, giving no consideration to considerations outside of capital and profit. Since the days of Thatcher’s gutting of regional communities, to the willing ignorance to the risks of the most profitable course that led to the Grenfell disaster, the Conservative party have long established themselves as the party that cares only for immediate economic success above any and all else. This perhaps explains why, before the enacting of such an election stunt, the party has been such a champion of fracking; almost a perfect metaphor for the extraction of short-term value with no regard for local communities or long-term sustainability.

It may be worth a modicum of congratulations to the Conservative party. Since Johnson took over as leader of the party and the country, the suspension of fracking is perhaps the one true item that the government can, unlike parliamentary votes and PR visits to hospitals, say that it has achieved success in. Make no mistake, however, the suspension of fracking is in no way motivated by a desire to protect the environment or communities affected by fracking. It is nothing short of a rudimentary and basic election tactic and attempted evidence for its “get things done campaign”; a crumb of success that will be weaponised as a counter argument to the myriad of environmentalist criticisms. When the “Science Changes” in the event the Conservatives win majority in the next election, such a suspension will be quickly and quietly repealed, leading to the next inevitable story of a small community ravaged by fracking disaster. 

As far as Environmentalism is concerned, the Conservative party line is evident; that the planet and the people that rely upon it are an afterthought, until the next chance for Johnson, clad in an ill fitting sports top or hopefully at the top of another zip-wire, to weaponise it for his own party’s success.

AROUND THE WORLD: Turkish President Erdogan Escalates Attacks Against Opponents Amid Election Preparations

Supporters of the Revolutionary Peoples’ Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) march against the killing of Berkin Elvan during the Gezi Uprising

As Turkey prepares for local elections on March the 31st, president Erdogan has once again moved against the militant opposition who have long opposed his authoritarian rule. The regime has refused entry to two French Communist Party members who planned to observe the local elections showcasing the already fraudulent nature of the elections. Posters belonging to the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) have been confiscated across the country alleging they are “Maoist” leading to the arrest of an election official in the Dersim district. Maoism in Turkey has come under a McCarthyite red scare as a Peoples War insurgency has gripped the east Tunceli region for nearly 40 years. The attacks have come amid an international hunger strike by imprisoned Kurds, leftists and their sympathisers which has come to be seen as a direct challenge to Erdogan’s rule.

In the most blatant and direct attack against their opposition, the right wing Islamist Justice and Development Party have went through on the prosecution and imprisonment of 18 lawyers on the grounds that they are “members or leaders of a terrorist organisation,”. The lawyers are either members of the Progressive Lawyers Association or the People’s Law Bureau and stand accused of belonging to the Revolutionary Peoples’ Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C). Amnesty Internationals Senior Campaigner on Turkey, Milena Buyum has stated that “Today’s convictions are a travesty of justice and demonstrate yet again the inability of courts crippled under political pressure to deliver a fair trial.”

The DHKP-C have been a thorn in the side of the Turkish government for over 30 years. Coming from a long line of left wing splinter groups that fought against fascist paramilitaries during the Turkish Years of Lead in the 1970’s, the group have since become known as one of the most professional militant groups in Europe. The far left group had claimed responsibility for a series of high-profile killings, including the assassination of far right nationalist politician Gün Sazak. The killing of whom would trigger events leading to the hijacking of the Turkish DC-9. The group would also go on to assassinate former Prime Minister Nihat Erim in 1980. The killing was believe to be related to the approval by the parliament of the execution of three leftist militants during his tenure. One of the executed was Deniz Gezmiş, considered by some as “Turkey’s Ché Guevara”. The group are also believed to have killed several prominent Turkish intelligence officers.

The groups recent resurgence, which includes attacks such as the suicide bombing of the US embassy and the kidnapping and the assassination of leading prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz, has clearly worried the Erdogan regime. In response, along with the conviction of lawyers who have defended socialists such as the DHKP-C, the Turkish government has launched a series of raids capturing alleged high ranking members of the group. The announcements may be treat with suspicion however, as the Turkish government have long treated anyone with sympathies towards the anti-gentrification and anti-imperialist message of the DHKP-C as a terrorist. Proof of this can be found in the government treatment of the popular left wing folk band Grup Yorum who have sympathies for the DHKC-P and have thus faced arbitrary arrest and torture.

DHKP-C militants infamous photo showcasing the capture of Mehmet Selim Kiraz 

With opposition in Turkey once again facing a clampdown, the integrity of the Erdogan regime diminishes day by day. The countries prominent place in NATO and its intervention into Syria has meant though, that the regime has remained legitimised in the eyes of west. However, with opposition to AKP rule remaining rampant in spite of these attacks, Erdogans dream of full dictatorship has not yet been fully realised. The determination of the Turkish left, which has not been diminished in spite of nearly 6 decades of repression, will almost certainly not let Erdogan grasp full power without a fight.

Sam Glasper is TPN’s Foreign Affairs Commentator and studies at Manchester Metropolitain University.

The road to Zimbabwe’s 2018 election

Image result for zimbabwe elections 2018

President Emerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa is a notorious figure in the politics of Zimbabwe. Commonly referred to as the ‘Crocodile’, he is known for his infamous political cunning.

Yet, the landscape appears to be changing. Having recently vowed to hold free and fair elections, he promises the citizens of Zimbabwe a better economy and foreign policy drive, if elected on 30th July. Even so, whilst Mnangagwa is confident that the elections will be fair, many have disputed this will be the case, citing Zanu-PF’s previous association with violence during elections. His main rival is Nelson Chamisa, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), who has started gaining support in Zanu-PF’s rural strongholds.

Chamisa believes that Mnangagwa does not have the ability to match the zeal and enthusiasm of the young people of Zimbabwe. In an exclusive interview with DW.com, the opposition leader stated that “Time is up for a particular generation”. In numerous interviews, Chamisa continues to make clear his belief that age will give him the advantage during these elections. Yet, even with his eighteen years in politics, many people still question whether this “youth ticket” will be enough to be up against the experienced and distinguished Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Mnangagwa too questions whether Chamisa is much of an opposition. Indeed, according to New Zimbabwe.com, he describes the opposition party as “barking puppies”, and has been quoted saying that “Zanu-PF is in power”.

He added: “Let it be known that nothing will change in this country even if we go for elections because people will vote for our party.” Elections on July 30 belong to Zanu-PF. We dictate what happens in this country. We already have an upper hand and the elections have been won already by us. Let those who want to argue do so, but just vote for Zanu-PF,”

What do the people of Zimbabwe have to say?

The months of July and August will be crucial for Zimbabwean millennials. It is said by the content creator and YouTuber, Pardon Gambakwe, that it is the “middle age citizens who suffer the most” when it comes to economic and social issues in Zimbabwe, and they want serious change.

Journalist Linda Mujuru argues that the opposition is “too weak to challenge Mnangagwa”. Chamisa’s past battle with Vice-President Thokozani Khupe over the leadership of the MDC-T has led people to speculate about a lack of organisation and unity within his party.

Yet, Joel Mutsindikwa believes that “Chamisa is the only way forward when we are about to rebound our economy”. He added: “I would rather vote for a dreamer than a Mugabe’s former right-hand man. We are in a deep economic shambles because of Zanu-PF. ” On the other hand, Noble Ngara has suggested that “it is better to vote for a guy who is doing a great job of fixing his mistakes than a guy who is not even mature enough to realise that he is heading for bigger blunders than Bob.”

Although many remain uncertain as to which candidate will take presidential office, Britain is said to support of Mnangagwa. The basis of its backing has been clear for the past few months- if the election is free, fair and credible. Indeed, during the Commonwealth Heads of government meeting, the UK government reiterated that the restoration of “democracy and human rights” must occur in Zimbabwe before any engagement is made with the country. Rather interestingly, many believe that Britain’s endorsement has stemmed from a desire to achieve foreign policy success, especially in light of the current Brexit storm. 

With just over a month to go now until polling day, the prospect of a progressive and democratic Zimbabwe may just be on the horizon.